A joust in volleyball is when two opposing players and the ball meet simultaneously just above the plane of the net.
Guessing which player will win the joust is a 50-50 proposition, and the same can be said about this year’s state volleyball boys state tournament, especially when May 10 arrives. That’s when the cutthroat portion of the tournament, the state quarterfinals, begins.
The talent is spread across the state, particularly in the senior class. Not only have they dueled during the volleyball season, but some of the marquee seniors have also played on the same teams while representing Arizona well during the club circuit.
One of those elite seniors, outside hitter J.T. Hatch, plays for the state’s No. 1 seed, 41-4 Mesa, one of the two boys volleyball teams that finished its power ranking season undefeated. The number two seed went to the other team that finished undefeated in the power rankings, Cienega (30-5), and is part of a southern Arizona contingent that will get its crack at the Valley teams.
Cienega and No. 8 seed Sahauro were the only two non-Valley teams that earned a first round bye and are part of the southern Arizona group that earned one third of the state’s seeds. Cienega is coached by Heather Mott, who is in her first season as coach, and Sahuaro is coached by veteran Sandy Novak.
Cienega is tall and athletic but lacks experience. Sahuaro on the other hand has seven seniors, including setter Ramon Hernandez.
Besides Mesa, the Valley teams that are ahead of the curve are Hamilton, Sandra Day O’Connor, Highland, Boulder Creek, and Mesa Mountain View. Hamilton setter Zach Melcher is one of the nation’s best at his position, and the same can be said about the UCLA-bound Hatch.
Those two along with Boulder Creek’s Ryne Benson, Brophy’s Billy Andrew (Princeton), and Mountain View’s Mark Olsen (.450 hitting percentage) played on the same club team and will reunite after the high school season is over. But beware top seeds.
There are double-digit seeded teams in the tournament that are capable of pulling off upsets, and those teams are No. 15 Gilbert, No. 10 Chandler, No. 11 Brophy and No. 17 Desert Ridge. The state tournament begins on Saturday and ends May 17, with the state championship match at Mesquite in Gilbert.